You don’t always remember your first meeting with a person. That was not the case with K Ramkumar. I remember when and where I met him. Why do you remember the first meeting with somebody and don’t remember that with others may be a matter for the Freud’s followers to think about. A layman [read: me] would suggest that the person instantly vibes with you; that’s why! [Elementary, my dear Watson!!]
I met Ramkumar [Ram] at a small gathering where Anu Aga spoke followed by Arun Maira. Ram was sitting next to me in the audience. I had heard about him but had never met. We exchanged notes. He said he began his career with Hindustan Aeronautics, then to Hindustan Lever [as it then was], ICI and then ICICI. I pointed out the common words in the organisations he worked for and we both had a good laugh. It makes you feel as if his career progressed from one organisation to another smoothly and continuously. You are certainly not wrong in that conclusion.
The interesting point is that his employer changed, so did his roles but Ram didn’t; I mean it in good sense, Ram remained as authentic as ever. You always spoke to Ram, not to Vice President or Executive Director, his roles. It is not only his well-articulated views on any subject that people love, it is not just his ‘calling-spade-a-spade’ style that people enjoy, it is always his authentic persona that his friends and well-wishers love.
Reaching Ramkumar became a nightmare for me when he moved to the top notch of the ladder, not because of the person he is, but when you get appointed as Exec Director of a huge corporation, the staff acts as traffic police, or censor board! Send a mail and they intervene to save mundane worries to their boss! I stopped reaching out to him. But I discovered that Ram was oblivious of this situation when I met him at NIPM’s Naval Tata Memorial Lecture at Indian Merchants Chamber on Aug 30, 2016. We chatted briefly there and revived the old friendship.
The Naval Tata Memorial Lecture was truly an inspired piece of oratory. A good orator is one who speaks on the subject he is passionate about! He beams with confidence and one would even say that he ‘glows.’ Those subjects bring out the best in the speaker. In the case of Ram, it is about the subject of practising long cherished values. When he is speaking on that subject he resembles Sehwag in full flow who outshines even Sachin then [there was no Sachin there at the event!]. It is a matter of regret that NIPM no longer publishes Naval Tata Memorial speeches, they used to publish them earlier.
Not all in HR profession appreciate Ram, and I do not belong to that clan. Those who are not accustomed to ‘audi alterem partem’ [hear the other party] way of life will find a well-argued alternate viewpoint uncomfortable, and Ram’s candour does not help make things easy. But those who enjoy it, will be seen appreciating, nodding their head, because his views are not just comprehensive, they are also culled out of experience.
I asked Ram if he would agree to record videos for me. He readily agreed. I recorded two videos. The first one is about ‘Meritocracy’ a much talked about and yet much misunderstood subject. The second is about ‘Challenges Before HR.’ Enjoy watching the videos.
Challenges Before HR
Vivek S Patwardhan